Herper of the week

Herper of the Week: Max Lambert

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The goal of Herper of the Week is to highlight people from all walks of life who work with reptiles and amphibians and show their work to others. This week’s Herper of the Week is Max Lambert, Ph.D student at Yale University.

His Ph.D research focuses on how suburbanization affects the sexual development on the Green Frog (Lithobates / Rana clamitans).

I reached out to Max to ask him some questions. To start it off, I asked him what started his love of frogs. Max replied “Growing up in Arizona, I was always jazzed to find toads hopping around by my house or while hiking. I’ve loved wildlife my whole life but there’s always been a special place in my heart for amphibians and reptiles. I think my career focused fully on them while taking Brad Shaffer’s herpetology course. Really digging into the nifty ecological and evolutionary diversity of frogs just entranced me. I think frog metamorphosis really captivates me. It always amazes me to have these tiny fish-like critters swimming around and then all of a sudden growing back legs, then front legs, and then they are these four-legged aliens that can climb trees, freeze solid, or bury underground – just amazing.”

I was wondering about what led him to his Ph.D studies focused so I asked about that. He said “I started my masters with Dave Skelly in 2011. Right before that, he published a paper showing that green frogs in the Connecticut suburbs commonly had a condition known as intersex, where the testes of male frogs have some ovarian traits, like developing egg cells. While I majored in Wildlife Conservation Biology for my bachelors, I had a weird extra interest in physiology and reproductive biology, taking far more courses than was encouraged. I really was keen to dig into this intersex frog question a bit more. During my masters research I uncovered an interesting pattern of sex ratio variation across populations of metamorphosing green frogs where populations in the middle of forests had male-biased sex ratios but populations in the suburbs had equal or female-biased sex ratios. It was a totally unique pattern to discover in any wild amphibian and really got the ball rolling for a PhD on the where, when, and why of frog sex reversal.”

Finally, I asked him about the best frog – the Gray Tree Frog. He answered “This is actually a common misconception. Indeed many high quality herpetologists advocate for gray tree frogs as the best of the frogs. But it’s a less well-known fact that green frogs (Rana clamitans) are actually the best. They’re a uniquely cosmopolitan species, occurring in a diversity of natural and human landscapes across a huge chunk of the United States and Canada. I’ve found them everywhere from beaver ponds in Maine to cypress swamps in Louisiana, suburbs in Connecticut, and agricultural ponds in Arkansas. The tadpoles are nifty because unlike most species, they typically need more than a year to metamorphose into froglets. In the northern part of their range, this means they are hanging out under the ice as tadpoles for a long time! Finally, both sexes are just gorgeous. The females have these bright white throats and a nice, dark green color to them. Males have a diversity of white to deep yellow throats and tend to be a brighter shade of green and brown. And male choruses are a happy banjo concert! Without a doubt, green frogs are really the best frogs out there.”

Thanks Max for answering my questions!

You can read more about his work on his website at https://lambertmr.wordpress.com/

You can follow him on twitter @MaxRLambert

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